Sunday, 27 September 2015

DIY: Budget Window Seat


DIY in Edinburgh is no easy task particularly for people on a budget without a car renting out a tiny carpeted flat in the city centre. Here is my story.

Ever since we moved into this flat I have been thinking what a great opportunity I had for a window seat. The windows are big and have a nice sill, we sort of have a view, and the living room is so tiny it definitely needed some creative seating spaces. I watched a couple of Youtube videos and hurled myself into creating a seat thinking it could be easy-peasy. We already had a shelving unit (passed down to us from a friend who left town) and I could see how it could be used as an extension to the windowsill.

I swiftly ordered a staple gun from Ebay and nailed the movable boards to the shelving unit so that it is sturdier and can bear people sitting on it. And for more than a year that was all I did on this project. I was quickly discouraged by the prices of the items I thought I needed such as a large board to which to staple my foam and fabric.

By the start of summer we had managed to stock our previously naked flat with the things we needed the most – you may remember my kitchen drama. Now we had a bed, a table, and some chairs but I needed more than utility. I wanted style and matching colours. Yet, after 5 years of studenting and a year of almost-employment, even IKEA’s prices felt light years away from my reach. I really wanted to throw away all the plywood furniture that we had found or was passed down to us (and which we sorely needed) but I couldn’t justify in any way the purchase of a £300 chair when it was about to look so out of place. So, as the summer came upon us and I could leave the windows opens for ventilation, the DIY/decoration bug got me once again.

I measured and planned, and thought carefully what could be what and what could be where. After some serious consideration I decided against throwing out the shelving unit and turning it into a window seat/library after all. I imagined things would go as follows:

1. Cut shelving unit to size
2. Sand
3. Prime
4. Paint
5. Seal
6. Sew cushion cover
7. Place foam in cushion cover
8. Watch sunsets with a glass of wine in hand

It went more or less to plan.

Size and fit:
The size between the walls of my windowsill is 156cm by 25cm. My shelving unit is 178cm by 23cm.
As the greatest disadvantage of a tiny carpeted flat with no balcony is that sawing is out of the question (and that I don’t have a jigsaw, yet), I came to accept that my shelving unit will stretch beyond the sill of the window. Plus, the unit was about 4cm higher than the sill so that gap had to be addressed otherwise the foam pillow would wobble and the edge would run in the middle making it utterly uncomfortable to sit.

Then I proceeded to sand the surfaces in the common corridor as they were glossy and I was afraid the paint would not stick.

Priming, painting, and sealing:
After cleaning the dust off and starting priming, my primer did not stick. I let it dry but it would pull up and dry into patches leaving some of the wood like it was never painted on. I primed a couple of times getting the same result and then by chance I ran into one of those little furniture shops where they updo old furniture. The lady there recommended to me chalk paint. I was somewhat aware of it but whenever I hear chalk I immediately think of sensation of it on my skin and it puts me off. Anyway, the promise of super sticky paint and no need of priming got to me and I bought a small tube of white paint and clear wax by Americana Décor. I was promised it will do the job and will go a long way. To be honest, I had to use two coats as one simply didn’t give me the finish I wanted and it still didn’t stick completely. By the end of the second coat I had ran out of paint and had achieved somewhat desired effect. Yet, it was rather streaky even when it dried and I didn’t have enough for the underside of the shelf (which I left for last in case this exact thing happened). All in all, it was ok, but maybe I would avoid the white colour if purchasing again.

I didn’t have enough paint for the panels at the back of the unit so, after it dried for about 24 hours, I cut and glued wallpaper with normal wallpaper glue that I had purchased from Poundland the year before. The roll of wallpaper was purchased last year from Homebase for £6 and somehow it was the nicest and cheapest paper there. Now I only needed about 50cm from it so you can possibly ask for a meter of the open rolls used for display instead of buying a whole one if you are not going to need it.
After the wallpaper had dried I covered the whole lot with one coat of the wax. I did not sand the surface before it and did not wipe or buff it. I liked the textured feel and it didn’t matter as I was to cover it with the pillow and books.

This, together with the paint, was the most expensive aspect of the project. I checked the pricings of the companies that sell foam locally and I either didn’t find clear pricing guides or the quotes were too high.
My second option was Ebay. I sent an email to a seller who cuts the foam to size and for 155cm by 48cm by 3in thickness I was quoted £29. This seemed too much to me as another seller was selling a pre-cut piece in 152cm by 51cm by 4in thickness firm grade foam for £28 plus delivery. Naturally, I went with the better deal although I was afraid these couple of centimetres protruding from the shelf will ruin everything. They didn’t, it was perfectly fine.

As I mentioned, the shelving unit was slightly higher than the sill. I looked through many skips looking for the best plank that I could place on the sill and level it up but they were wither too long, too short, or too narrow. Homebase did not offer woodcutting services in the store near me and the one in Pentland Retail Park by IKEA had closed down. Finally, I popped in B&Q in Ford Kinnaird and found my solution – 18mm MDF cut to size. I got 4 pieces (for easy bus transportation) and they fit like a glove.

Cushion cover:
Sewing the cover for the window pillow was a challenge. There aren’t too many haberdasheries in town. I actually know of only 1 but I wasn’t willing to pay £14/m as I needed 3.5m. I spent days on Ebay but things did not look too great there either. IKEA simply did not have fabric that I liked and although I considered using some of the softer shower curtains I wasn’t sold on their patterns either. The solution came from the Home section in H&M in the form of a 200cm by 145cm table cloth. They had some nifty Scandinavian designs with a rather hefty £30 price tag but I was super lucky the one that I liked was discounted at £4. Yay, H&M discounts!

I wanted to keep the writing pattern in the middle so I did not cut the cloth into two pieces as instructed by every Youtube video out there. I folded it in half on long side so that I have my pattern in the centre with the pretty side facing in. Then I measured from the fold 1 width of the foam + 1 height (thickness of the foam) minus 1 cm as I wanted a tighter fit. I pinned it down and sewed along my marks. There was a pretty big seam allowance which I then cut off. Once done it was like a cylinder so I placed the hem in the middle and ironed it flat (the writing was in the centre as well). Then I measured from the top of the fabric 1 length of the foam + 1 height and sewed off the end. I wanted to be able to wash my cover so, I sewed a zipper at the other end following this video. Be sure when purchasing your zipper to measure the width of the foam plus 1 height so you don’t end up with gaps on the sides.

Once done, I turned it inside out and put it on the foam in a manner similar to putting on a pair of tights. It fit wonderfully and there were no hideous seams! I arranged the library, threw on some cushions and voila – sunsets and wine!

I am not sure it looks like a picture from a catalogue on Scandinavian design but it’s neat, comfortable, and supper hyggeligt, as the Danes say. In the end, I feel it was worth it as now I have a fantastic writing spot with a view.

Price List*
Shelf – free
Paint – £22 (Americana Décor + Wax - £17 from a store in Haddington, Primer and Undercoat - £5 form B&Q)
Foam - £28 Ebay
MDF – £6 B&Q
Fabric - £4 H&M
Zipper - £4.50 Ebay
Staple gun - £6.80 Ebay (Completely unnecessary)
Hygge – Priceless
Total: £ 64.50

*(Extra things you’ll need such as a sewing machine, thread, sanding paper, brushes, wallpaper etc are not included as I didn’t buy them specifically for this project)

Disclaimer: I was not approached by any of the aforementioned companies and I was not endorsed in any way to promote their products. All of the items listed and used on the project here have been researched for many internet hours and paid for from my own pocket. 


  1. Wonderful seat, Demi. Can't wait to try the sunset and wine programme xx


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